In this review, I’ll be taking a look at Native Instruments’ Komplete Audio 1 audio interface. This is one of the more popular options out there for entry-level budget units, and rightfully so.
It looks good, sounds good, and Native Instruments is an incredibly trustworthy company. The question is whether all of this makes it a worthy contender of your consideration.
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Final verdict on the Komplete Audio 1
While interfaces like this do have their place in the market, the Komplete Audio 1 doesn’t offer that much in return. This interface is best for beginners and hobbyists, but not much else.
What I like
- Solid recording quality.
- Looks nice.
What I don’t like
- RCA outputs.
- Plastic build.
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I/O and controls
On the front panel of the Komplete Audio 1 is an XLR input and a 1/4-inch TRS input which can be switched between instrument and line level. To the right of each input is a designated gain control.
The interface features a button to engage 48 V phantom power for the XLR input, under which is a direct monitoring knob to help you blend between the signals coming in from your direct input and your DAW. Lastly is the 1/4-inch headphone jack, and its volume control knob.
The top of the unit features a master control knob, as well as LED meters for each input. The meters are fairly accurate, but you’ll most likely rely on your DAW for gain staging. There are also LEDs to signal whether the USB or phantom power is engaged.
Turning around to the rear of the unit, you’ll find the USB port and a Kensington locking connection. Finally, the Komplete Audio 1 has dual RCA stereo outputs to send audio through to your monitors.
I would have rather seen balanced TRS outputs here, but it shouldn’t pose much of an issue for entry-level buyers. Still, it is a significant downgrade in terms of sound quality.
The unit offers 24-bit depth and a maximum sample rate of 192 kHz. The microphone input has a dynamic range of 109 dB (A-weighted), which is more than adequate to allow for some headroom while also limiting the risk of clipping.
The preamps here are also worth noting, seeing that it delivers an equivalent input noise of 129.5 dB (A). This is good news, especially for those of you using low-sensitivity dynamic mics.
As I just mentioned, the preamps are extremely respectable when considering the price point of the unit. My only concern is that the max gain is fairly low, resting at 44 dBFS at 0 dBu. However, considering the low noise floor and high dynamic range, this isn’t a huge deal breaker for me. Still, having a decent external pre can do you some good here.
While the Komplete Audio 1 can be fairly limiting, it can prove to be a great asset to the novice recording artist. The interface is small and compact, so it won’t take up that much room on your desk.
The Komplete Audio 1, being completely bus-powered, can come in handy for recording artists on the road. It is ideal for any quick demo recording, but that’s about it.
Unfortunately, the interface is entirely made of plastic, which can be bad news for anybody looking for a unit with some durability and longevity. However, it’s surprisingly sturdy, and doesn’t feel as cheap as one might expect.
There isn’t any wiggle or give in any of the inputs or knobs, and overall the unit feels fairly robust. Still, a metal casing would’ve been preferable, although NI probably opted for the cheaper option to keep the prices low.
Upon purchasing the Komplete Audio 1, you’ll receive access to Maschine Essentials, Ableton Live Lite, Monark, and several Native Instruments effects. This is an ample software bundle, offering the beginner all the tools necessary to start bringing their sonic ideas to life.
Compared to other audio interfaces
Although fairly limiting, the Komplete Audio 1 is one of the better interfaces at around $100. But if you have an extra $20-$30 to spend, here are a few alternatives to consider.
Komplete Audio 1 vs Komplete Audio 2
If you have an extra $30 dollars lying around, why not just get the Komplete Audio 2? It has two XLR/TRS combo inputs and balanced TRS outs.
Komplete Audio 1 vs Focusrite Scarlett Solo
The Scarlett Solo is a popular choice for this price range, and offers more or less the same performance as the Komplete. Unlike the Komplete, however, the Scarlett has balanced TRS outputs and Focusrite’s signature Air mode. I recommend going with the Solo.
Komplete Audio 1 vs M-Audio AIR 192|4
Both the Komplete and AIR 192|4 offer more or less the same performance. It really comes down to aesthetics.
Komplete Audio 1 vs Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
This option is a bit more expensive than the Komplete Audio 1, but is worth the expense in my opinion. If you can make the investment, go for it.
Who is the Native Instruments Komplete Audio 1 best suited for?
The Komplete Audio 1 is best suited for beginners looking for an entry-level interface. It’s fairly limiting and is best for songwriters trying to record their guitar and vocals at the same time. The 192 kHz playback can also be useful for folks in film or podcasting.